Japanese Chu-Hi Drinks

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20 Best Tried and True Japanese Chu-hi Drinks in 2023 (Sommelier-Reviewed)

You might have heard about a Japanese alcoholic drink called chu-hi. In fact, if you've been to Japan, you might have seen tons of these drinks stocked at convenience stores, supermarkets, and other retailers. Well, what are they? Chu-hi, occasionally spelled "chu-hai" and pronounced as "chew-high," are alcoholic beverages that are just as popular as beer and are made by major manufacturers like Takara, Suntory, and Asahi, as well as smaller companies that produce craft chu-hi. They're popular for their varied flavors, like lemon and grapefruit, to name a few. In recent years, manufacturers have also begun releasing "strong" chu-hi versions with higher alcohol content, in addition to sugar-free options. These limitless options might make things difficult to choose which one is the best chu-hi.

So, to figure out which one is the best chu-hi, our editors went online and picked up the most popular chu-hi drinks on e-commerce sites that are popular in Japan, such as Amazon, Rakuten, and Yahoo! Shopping and tried them all.

We tested each chu-hi for the following:

  • How delicious they were

Keep on reading to find out which chu-hi were our top picks!

Last updated 06/15/2023
Makoto Fujimori
Makoto Fujimori

After graduating from the hospitality department at a vocational school, Makoto Fujimori worked as a bartender at French restaurants and where he received praise from Japan's leading sommelier Shinya Tasaki (winner of the 1995 Association de la Sommellerie Internationale competition). After working as the manager at several restaurants, he went independent and opened two European-style wine taverns, VINOSITY and VINOSITY magis, and also produced several other restaurants. Makoto is also the Vice President of the Japan Wine Lovers Association, judge for the Japan Winery Awards, Bordeaux Wine Knight, Value Bordeaux judge, Champagne Knight JSA Certified Senior Sommelier, DWG Certified German Wine Kenner, BSA Certified Beer Advisor, BSA Certified Spirits Advisor, as well as is a CCA certified cheese coordinator, a JFAA certified food analyst, an SSI certified sake taster, and a JFAA soy sauce cultural ambassador.

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Table of Contents

What is Chu-Hi?

What is Chu-Hi?

You might've seen or heard of chu-hi, but what is it? To be incredibly brief, the drink we now know as chu-hi was first invented in Japan around the 1950s, when people began making whisky sodas, otherwise known as highballs but replaced whisky, which was expensive at the time, with the Japanese spirit shochu, thus giving birth to the shochu highball, shortened to chu-hi.

The canned format that is popular today first appeared in the 1980s but has since exploded in terms of both variety and market share, with thousands of different products available today. Their cheaper price point, varied flavors, ranging from sweet to sour, and a wide range of products with differing alcohol content make them incredibly popular, with a product for everyone. In fact, chu-hi's are becoming so popular that they're expected to surpass beer in terms of annual sales volume in the next few years.

While the original chu-hi was just shochu mixed with soda water, modern chu-hi can be made from shochu or even vodka, and can be mixed with almost anything non-alcoholic to count as a chu-hi!

How to Choose a Chu-Hi

With so many different options, it can be pretty daunting choosing a chu-hi, especially if you don't know if you'll even like the taste. Here's some tips on how to choose the best one for you!

① Consider the Flavor

Consider the Flavor

In addition to common flavors like grapefruit or lemon, there are a plethora of different flavors in the chu-hi world, like cola, green tea, peach, mango, pineapple, and even tomato! Some chu-hi even use a base alcohol which fruit has been steeped in to extract more flavors, such as  Suntory's Horoyoi Peach and Sapporo's Koime no Lemon Sour.

One tip to note: sometimes, the fruit juice can separate from the base alcohol, especially if the chu-hi has a high concentration of fruit juice. We recommend gently turning the can upside-down once before opening it to make sure that your drink is mixed properly.

② Consider the Base Alcohol

One of the major elements that can greatly affect how a chu-hi tastes is the type of alcohol used as its base. Keep reading to find out more!

Spirits like Vodka and Gin are Easy to Drink

Spirits like Vodka and Gin are Easy to Drink

You'll find many chu-hi with a vodka base, as well as a few that use gin. These are easy to drink and have a good aftertaste in general. Recently, these have become the most popular kinds.

Spirits like vodka or gin tend to have no prominent flavors and make for great bases, allowing the flavor of whatever they're mixed with to stand out more. 

These are of course most similar to mixed drinks like vodka sours that'd you'd get at a bar or izakaya, so if you're used to those, look for chu-hi with the same ingredients.

Makoto Fujimori
SommelierMakoto Fujimori

With chu-hi made from a spirits base, you can taste the flavor of the mixer well, since spirits don't have any prominent tastes or smells. Unlike more stronger-smelling alcohols like shochu, spirits-based chu-hi are better for those who aren't big drinkers.

Liqueur is Great for Those Who Don't Usually Drink a Lot

Liqueur is Great for Those Who Don't Usually Drink a Lot

Liqueurs (distilled spirits infused with herbs, fruits, and nuts) are also used in chu-hi. They have a more complex taste. Usually, the ones used in chu-hi are fruit-based.

These chu-hi tend to be sweeter and have a strong taste of fruit juice. If you enjoy sweet cocktails like daiquiris or tropical fruit drinks, look for liqueur-based chu-hi.

Makoto Fujimori
SommelierMakoto Fujimori

You can really taste the flavors of the liqueur with chu-hi made from a liqueur base and offers a cocktail-like experience. These are best for those who just started drinking, like those in their early twenties.

Shochu-Based Chu-hi are Dry and Impactful

Shochu-Based Chu-hi are Dry and Impactful

The original chu-hi drinks were based on shochu. This hard alcohol is dry and strong-tasting, so these are a good choice if you are not a fan of sweet drinks.

Some of them, especially the fresh-squeezed juice types, are a bit sweeter and more balanced. Recently shochu chu-hi are increasingly hard to find, so when you get one you like, it's a real treat!

Makoto Fujimori
SommelierMakoto Fujimori

Unlike neutral spirits such as vodka, with shochu-based chu-hi, you can really pick up the fragrance of the shochu. If you want to have an authentic izakaya-style chu-hi, or if you're a big drinker, then this would be a good choice.

③ Decide How Much Alcohol You Want

The alcohol content of canned chu-hi ranges from 3% to a hefty 9%. The ones with more punch, not surprisingly, as usually labeled "strong."

In case you were wondering, there's a reason why "strong" chu-hi max out at 9%, and it's for tax reasons; with the exception of beer, carbonated alcoholic beverages are taxed much lower if they contain 9% or less alcohol.

7% or Higher is Good to Enjoy with Meals, or Get Drunk Fast

7% or Higher is Good to Enjoy with Meals, or Get Drunk Fast

Most chu-hi have alcohol content of 5-6%. If you see the word strong on the can (fortunately it's usually in English) it's 7% or more.

This is higher than a typical beer, so you only need a little to get a good buzz. We recommend drinking them with food so you don't get too drunk too fast, and avoiding them if you're not a strong drinker.

Occasional Drinkers May Prefer 4% Alcohol or Less

Occasional Drinkers May Prefer 4% Alcohol or Less

Many of the lower-alcohol chu-hi are sweeter, and even if you usually drink juice or soda you'll enjoy them. They may not always pair well with meals, but they're perfect for snacks or to enjoy on their own.

④ Dieters Should Check Carbs and Calories

Dieters Should Check Carbs and Calories

If you're on a low-carb or low-sugar diet, there are still plenty of chu-hi you can drink! Even if you're not watching your waistline, you may want to choose one of these to pair with food or snacks. The labels should say "no sugar" or "no carbs."

  • 糖類ゼロ means no sugar. It's low in calories, but still has carbohydrates, because it contains artificial sweeteners.
  • 糖質ゼロ means no carbs, no sugars, and no sweeteners.
Makoto Fujimori
SommelierMakoto Fujimori

If you're on a diet and still want to drink, you should choose a chu-hi labeled as 糖質ゼロ (zero carbs)

However, it's worth noting that alcohol itself can have lots of calories, so if you're serious about your diet, then it's probably best to not drink too much. 

Another important factor when it comes to dieting is controlling your stress levels, so having the occasional drink shouldn't throw you off your weight loss journey too much.

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20 Best Japanese Chu-Hi

Now to introduce the 20 best Japanese chu-hi. They were ranked by how well they did on our tests and given an overall grade ranging from 1.0 to 5.0. ※Some of the prices have been converted to dollars from the original Japanese price for easier viewing.
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Key features

Sapporo Beer

Lemon the Rich Tokusei Lemon

Sapporo Beer Lemon the Rich Tokusei Lemon 1枚目

A Satisfying Modern-Day Chu-Hi that Never Gets Old


Sapporo Beer

Otoko Ume Sour

Sapporo Beer Otoko Ume Sour 1枚目

A Uniquely Sweet and Savory Drink


Asahi Beer

Gyokuro and Matcha Chu-Hi

Asahi Beer Gyokuro and Matcha Chu-Hi 1枚目

A Non-Carbonated, Sugar-Free, Fragrant and Delicious Matcha Chu-Hi


Kirin Beer

Hon-Shibori Grapefruit

Kirin Beer Hon-Shibori Grapefruit 1枚目

A Fruity and Dry Grapefruit Chu-hi


Kirin Beer

Hyoketsu Sicilian Lemon

Kirin Beer Hyoketsu Sicilian Lemon 1枚目

The Golden Standard of Chu-Hi


Asahi Beer

Asahi Zeitaku Shibori Grapefruit

Asahi Beer Asahi Zeitaku Shibori Grapefruit 1枚目

A Sweet and Fruity, Beginner-Friendly Chu-Hi


Aseed Aster

Sicilian Lemon Chu-Hi

Aseed Aster Sicilian Lemon Chu-Hi 1枚目

A Bitter and Sweet Lemon Chu-hi


Suntory Holdings

Horoyoi White Sour

Suntory Holdings Horoyoi White Sour 1枚目

A Sweet and Milky Chu-Hi With a Low Alcohol Content


Suntory Holdings

Akadama Punch

Suntory Holdings Akadama Punch 1枚目

A Sweet and Refreshing Wine-Based Chu-Hi


Suntory Holdings

Horoyoi Peach

Suntory Holdings Horoyoi Peach 1枚目

Gentle and Fragrant Peach Flavors

Product details
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Sapporo BeerLemon the Rich Tokusei Lemon

Lemon the Rich Tokusei Lemon Image 1
Lemon the Rich Tokusei Lemon Image 2
Reference price

A Satisfying Modern-Day Chu-Hi that Never Gets Old

Sapporo's Lemon the Rich Tokusei Lemon is a chu-hi that uses 3% lemon juice extracted using Sapporo's unique extraction method. The alcohol content is also at 5%, making it easy to enjoy meals with.

This chu-hi has a sweet and fruity flavor with the fragrance of lemons marinated in liqueur. It's great both with snacks and by itself, making it a drink that can be enjoyed by anyone at any time.

The sweetness, bitterness, juiciness, and freshness were all well-balanced. However, if you want to enjoy more of a specific aspect, such as bitterness, then this might be somewhat lacking for you. However, since it's so balanced, it makes for a good choice for most.

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Sapporo BeerOtoko Ume Sour

A Uniquely Sweet and Savory Drink

This drink uses 5% fruit juice from Japanese pickled umeboshi plums to create a unique drink with hints of saltiness to it, which helps highlight the sweetness and flavor of the plum.

It matches Japanese food well, but can also be enjoyed with pretty much most snacks or dishes. Its overall flavor profile was relatively balanced, but it does have a prominent plum flavor, so this might not be for everyone.

Since the plum flavor was quite rich, you might not be able to keep knocking back this drink can after can, if that's what you're into. This chu-hi is best enjoyed with a good meal to fully draw out its flavors.


Asahi BeerGyokuro and Matcha Chu-Hi

A Non-Carbonated, Sugar-Free, Fragrant and Delicious Matcha Chu-Hi

Asahi's Gyokuro and Matcha Chu-hi uses Japanese matcha, sencha, and gyokuro green tea leaves for this matcha-flavored chu-hi. Its gentle matcha flavors makes it the perfect drink to enjoy with a meal.

It has a moderate amount of alcohol, and the bitterness and fragrance of the green tea was popular among our testers. Since it has a rounded flavor profile, our testers were able to keep drinking this chu-hi. It's also non-carbonated, so it was lacking in freshness in comparison to other chu-hi. Since it also has no sugar, its sweetness is kept to a minimum.

This is a chu-hi that you won't get tired of even if you drink it daily, and it pairs with various dishes well, so unless you're not a fan of green tea or matcha, you'll most likely find this chu-hi to be delicious. It's a versatile drink that can be paired with food but can also be enjoyed by itself.


Kirin BeerHon-Shibori Grapefruit

A Fruity and Dry Grapefruit Chu-hi

Kirin's Hon-Shibori Grapefruit is a grapefruit sour made exclusively from fruit juice and alcohol. It uses a blend of liqueur and vodka for its base and features 28% fruit juice.

Our testers were thrilled that this chu-hi tasted authentically like grapefruit, with minimal sweetness and pronounced bitterness and sourness, just like the real fruit. If you don't like grapefruit, then this may not be for you. Our testers also commented that this chu-hi had a refined flavor that reminded them of cocktails served at a proper bar.

Since the flavor is pretty rich, we recommend pouring it into a glass and sipping on it slowly, as opposed to knocking this back. Not only does it make for a great drink to pair with a meal, but we also think it can be a good alternative to a dessert!


Kirin BeerHyoketsu Sicilian Lemon

The Golden Standard of Chu-Hi

Kirin's Hyoketsu Sicilian Lemon is the most basic product from Kirin's Hyoketsu line of chu-hi. As the name implies, the product primarily uses Sicilian lemon juice, which is then frozen. The base is made from a blend of liqueur and vodka.

Compared to other lemon-flavored products, it's definitely on the sweeter side, but has an average bitterness and freshness, as its reputation as the industry standard lemon chu-hi would suggest. Still, that means that this chu-hi is great to drink for anyone at any time.

Compared to higher ranking products, it's not as well-balanced in terms of flavor and does lack depth, but it's a safe choice, and a great product to dip your feet into the world of chu-hi.


Asahi BeerAsahi Zeitaku Shibori Grapefruit

A Sweet and Fruity, Beginner-Friendly Chu-Hi

Asahi's Zeitaku Shibori Grapefruit is a grapefruit sour that uses tons of fruit juice, with a whopping 41% in this particular chu-hi. The base is a blend of liqueur and vodka.

Compared to your average grapefruit flavor chu-hi, this product features the strong sweetness of pink grapefruit, with less bitterness and sourness. This sweetness helps conceal the inherent bitterness found in alcohol, making it taste pretty much like grapefruit juice.

Since it's not very strong in terms of alcohol content, this is best for those who aren't big drinkers. If you're one to down a few, this might not be satisfying enough. This is a great product for those who want a fruity drink that's goes down easily.


Aseed AsterSicilian Lemon Chu-Hi

Sicilian Lemon Chu-Hi Image 1
Sicilian Lemon Chu-Hi Image 2
Reference price

A Bitter and Sweet Lemon Chu-hi

Aseed Astar's Sicilian Lemon Chu-Hi uses a blend of multiple types of juices sourced from organically grown lemons. The juices are neither concentrated nor processed to draw out the natural flavor of the ingredients.

This product balances bitterness with sweetness, yet still manages to highlight its lemony flavors. While it's sweeter than other products, it has a refreshing aftertaste that won't get in the way of your meal. Since it also doesn't taste too boozy, it's best for beginners as well as those who like sweet drinks. 


Suntory HoldingsHoroyoi White Sour

A Sweet and Milky Chu-Hi With a Low Alcohol Content

Suntory's Horoyoi White Sour is a chu-hi flavored with Calpico (known as Calpis in Japan), made with a blend of spirits and liqueurs.

The milky sweetness of this chu-hi and its low alcohol content of 3% makes the bitterness in alcohol almost undetectable. Since it's so sweet, we recommend either enjoying it by itself or with some snacks, rather than with a proper meal.

Since it's made with milk-based products, it does have 9.55 grams of sugar, so if you're trying to minimize your sugar intake, be warned.


Suntory HoldingsAkadama Punch

A Sweet and Refreshing Wine-Based Chu-Hi

Suntory's Akadama Punch is a wine sour with 6% alcohol content made from sweetened fruit wine. This chu-hi is characterized by its sweetness that is reminiscent of port wine and sangria.

While this carbonated drink does have the flavor and fragrance of grapes as well as concentrated grape juice, it also has hints of lemon, making for a refreshing taste.

Pairing-wise, since the refreshing and sweet wine flavor doesn't get in the way of your food, we think it's best paired with fried foods or braised dishes.

If you want extra fresh flavors, we recommend pouring this chu-hi into a glass and serving it with a lemon wedge for an easy cocktail. If you like wine, this is a chu-hi for you.


Suntory HoldingsHoroyoi Peach

Gentle and Fragrant Peach Flavors

Suntory's Horoyoi Momo is the flagship of Suntory's Horoyoi lineup of products. In addition to using a blend of spirits and liqueurs, it also uses peach-based liquor.

While it only has 1% fruit juice, our testers liked how they could still enjoy the gentle peach fragrance and flavors. They also could hardly taste any of the alcohol and were satisfied with the sweetness and peachy flavor.

On the other hand, if you're a big drinker, you might not be satisfied with this product. Still, it's not overly sweet, and some might even enjoy pairing this with meals or might enjoy this as a nightcap, making it a versatile drink. This is a chu-hi that's best for those who aren't huge fans of alcohol.


Asahi BeerMogitate Strong Marugoto Shibori Grapefruit

An Authentic Strong Chu-Hi

Asahi's Mogitate Strong Marugoto Shibori Grapefruit is a strong chu-hi, meaning it has a relatively higher alcohol content. This product uses no artificial sweeteners and only uses freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.

Our testers raved about how the rich grapefruit flavor had filled their mouths and that it had a mellow mouthfeel. While it has an alcohol content of 9%, it didn't taste incredibly boozy. Instead, it had a fresh fruity flavor. If you're not a fan of grapefruit, this isn't the best choice for you.

It was delicious enjoyed alone, but it also has a refreshing flavor that we think will pair well with meals or snacks. It's very similar to the kind of chu-hi that you'd get served at a Japanese izakaya, making it a great product for many.


Sapporo BeerAi no Skal White Sour

A Light and Refreshing Milky Drink

Sapporo's Ai no Skal White Sour is based on Sapporo's non-alcoholic milky carbonated beverage, Ai no Skal.

This chu-hi had the most refreshing taste among all the milky chu-hi we tested. While it's pretty sweet, it has a hint of acidity, giving it a refreshing flavor that doesn't linger in the mouth. While it's not the best drink to pair with food, it's delicious on its own.

This chu-hi would be great to add sweet fruit or syrups to. If you're a fan of sweet drinks or not a big drinker, this should be a drink that you could probably enjoy.


Sapporo BeerKoime no Lemon Sour

A Great Palate Cleanser

Sapporo's Koime no Lemon Sour uses a blend of squeezed hand-picked Sicilian lemons and lemon-infused liquor.

This product is particularly strong, but has barely any bitterness, making it easy and refreshing to drink. It also isn't sickly sweet, so you can really knock these back, and its boozy aftertaste is sure to satisfy big drinkers.

While it doesn't have a strong lemon fragrance, its prominent sourness makes it an ideal palate cleanser and is a great match with fried food or other heavier dishes. If you're a person who seeks sweetness or richness, it might be a bit lacking, but if you're fond of sour drinks, this will definitely be a great choice!


Asahi BeerAsahi Zeitaku Shibori Kiwi

A Sweet, Cocktail-Like Chu-Hi

Asahi's Zeitaku Shibori Kiwi has 13% fruit juice and is made with a blend of liqueur and vodka as its base.

While it has a sweet fragrance and taste, it was slightly lacking in the juiciness of the kiwi. Since it was so sweet and sour, our testers could hardly taste any bitterness from the alcohol.

On the other hand, it's incredibly rich, so it'll be great to drink slowly by itself, but this probably isn't a chu-hi to gulp down. This is a great drink for those who have a sweet tooth, or who don't like the bitterness found in alcoholic drinks.


Kirin BeerKirin Tokusei The Strong Lemon Sour

An Easy-To-Drink Boozy Chu-Hi

Kirin Tokusei The Strong Lemon Sour is a lemon sour with 2% fruit juice and 9% alcohol, making it a "strong" product. Its base is made from a blend of spirits, vodka, and liqueur, with the addition of various fruit extracts made by simmering them for over 12 hours.

This chu-hi balances its complex lemon flavors and sweetness with the bitterness of alcohol and lemons, making it easy to drink.

However, being a fairly boozy chu-hi, it's a bit on the heavier side, and not something that would generally be described as refreshing. This drink can be enjoyed alone or with food and has no obvious flaws.


Sapporo BeerKireito Lemon Sour

A Light and Tangy, Vitamin-Packed Drink

Sapporo's Kireito Lemon Sour features 3000mg of citric acid and 350mg of vitamin c, as well as 20% fruit juice, making it a chu-hi that you can really taste the lemon.

Compared to other lemon-based chu-hi, this one was particularly sour thanks to its high amount of citric acid. While it does have a somewhat artificial-tasting sweetness to it, there's a bitterness that is highlighted by the drink's sourness.

While this doesn't have that much of an alcoholic bitterness to it, it's a great beverage if you're a fan of sour drinks. We think it's best enjoyed with greasy dishes to help cleanse your palate.


Kirin BeerHon-Shibori Orange

A Chu-Hi That Tastes Like Orange Juice

Kirin's Hon-Shibori Orange features an outstanding 45% fruit juice, meaning that nearly half of this drink is orange juice! The base alcohol is a blend of liqueur and vodka.

While this does have a prominent orange sourness and bitterness to it, it doesn't taste boozy at all, especially compared to other products in Kirin's Hon-Shibori lineup, making it a great product for those who don't like the taste of alcohol or those who aren't big drinkers.


Suntory Holdings-196℃ Strong Zero Double Lemon

Relatively Easy to Drink and No Obvious Flaws

Suntory's -196℃ Strong Zero Double Lemon, often shortened to just "Strong Zero," is a lemon sour that packs a punch with 9% alcohol content. It also uses lemon-infused vodka as well as lemon juice to further enhance its lemon flavors.

While it does have 9% alcohol content, the sweetener in this drink helps mask its booziness. While our testers felt like this chu-hi didn't have as rich of a lemon flavor as they'd expected, they noted it was generally a versatile drink, and something they would enjoy in various situations.

Some might feel that it's a bit too strong in terms of alcohol, so it might be better to pour it in a glass with ice if that's the case.


Takara ShuzoGokujo Lemon Sour Maruoroshi Lemon

Best Paired With RIch and Savory Dishes

Takara's Gokujo Lemon Sour Maruoroshi Lemon uses wholly-crushed lemons and a liqueur base. This product also uses no artificial sweeteners.

Compared to other chu-h-, this product was more fragrant and flavorful, with a strong lemon flavor that canceled out any hints of booziness, making it the perfect match for dishes that you might squeeze a lemon on. This product is great both alone or with food, and would make for a great nightcap.


Suntory HoldingsKodawari Sakaba no Lemon Sour

A Well-Balanced Lemon Sour

Suntory's Kodawari Sakaba no Lemon Sour is made using steeped lemons. For its base, Suntory has employed a unique ratio of spirits to further draw out this chu-hi's lemon flavors.

While it doesn't particularly taste strongly of alcohol, it packs a punch and is sure to satisfy most drinkers. Its sweetness is suppressed while having a decent amount of bitterness and freshness.

That being said, while it has a decently balanced fragrance, it does lack a bit in flavor. However, it's pretty similar to an authentic izakaya lemon sour, and it's suited for those who want to drink a lot.

Top 5 Japanese Chu-Hi Drinks

No. 1: Sapporo Beer | Lemon the Rich Tokusei Lemon

No. 2: Sapporo Beer | Otoko Ume Sour

No. 3: Asahi Beer | Gyokuro and Matcha Chu-Hi

No. 4: Kirin Beer | Hon-Shibori Grapefruit

No. 5: Kirin Beer | Hyoketsu Sicilian Lemon

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The descriptions of each product is referenced from the content available from the manufacturer, e-commerce sites etc.

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